Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Who’s your audience?

When you’re writing a technical manual or something like rules for an RPG, how much do you assume that the reader knows? Are you writing for a veteran or a newbie? As I see it there are a couple of different things you (and subsequently, I) could do.

Option 1) Assume your reader has never picked up an RPG (or whatever) book and explain every detail.
Option 2) Assume your reader has an understanding of how RPG’s work and gloss over finer points.
Option 3) Somewhere in between.

#1 or My audience might be people who have never played an RPG before.
So you write up every detail of every rule. You go into the minutia like, “this is a die, it has 6 sides, you roll it and add the result to this other number…”

The most obvious benefit is (as long as you explain everything well) everyone knows how to do everything. There will be a clear understanding of how this works, how it interacts with that other bit etc. This can be good for anyone new to the hobby of RPG’s because it makes the learning curve softer.

The very obvious downside to this is that it makes the text very dry and slow. This can itself turn people off.

#2 or In all likelihood anyone playing this gave has played at least one RPG before.
SO you hit the points that make “your game”, “your game” but assume some familiarity with the RPG thing.

Benefits include brevity which might make for an easier read. If you don’t have a daunting 3 chapters before you learn how to make a character, you will probably be more likely to keep reading.

The major downside to this is that things get muddy. Something that is clear to you and 20 others isn’t quite understood by someone else. Then their off looking at the next pretty book.

#3 or the fine line between writing so everyone likes it and writing so no one does.

This can go two ways:
You get the best of both worlds, brief where it should be brief, but clear and concise where you need that too. Everyone’s happy and you sell a million copies.

You try and split the difference and jack up everything. Anyone who you might pull in with your cool cover art immediately puts it back down because your book looks like a space shuttle owner’s manual. Your book sits on store shelves till their thrown away or worse yet, in a server of some POD website, never, ever to be printed.

To me the best option is the good side of 3. However, the risk of falling over into the bad side of three is kind of big… so I’m thinking number two… with a good index.


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